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Soft Skills with Coach Marchi: Developing a Growth Mindset as a Hockey Player

Developing a growth mindset as a hockey player.jpeg

Follow along as coach Steve Marchi rolls out a series of blogs to help you improve soft skills and how to think about the game away from the X’s and O’s.

In your hockey career, you’ll hear coaches and parents say that so and so was “born to be a hockey player” or “they’re a natural talent.” You may see some of these players make it to the next level and find success, but more often than not the talent flame burns out.

And Geez, maybe it’s you – so stick around and read this blog.

Even at the highest level of our game, there’s a running list of NHL Draft Busts. I’m not a big fan of looking at a player’s shortcomings, but let’s learn from them when we can. You cannot become a better hockey player on talent alone – the Hard Skills. There’s much more in the recipe for success – the Soft Skills and intangibles you you learn from the game. 

What makes the best players GREAT?

Do you think they were born with talent, and just ride the wave to being NHL superstars? Or do you think it’s burning desire inside the player to be great? Something that slowly grows over years of practices, games, wins, losses, and failures – developing strong character, grit, and resiliency along the way?

🚨  News Flash 🚨 – The players with a growth mindset have the opportunity to become great. Players that truly become a student of the game, look at hockey as a constant learning journey, and focus on growing better every day are the ones that find success.

This concept is put simply by The Great One. You’ve seen this quote before, but I bet without the lead up:

Learning and the focus on Growth is a core soft skill that made Gretzky The Great One.

What’s the Difference Between a Growth Mindset and a Fixed Mindset?

The Growth Mindset and Fixed Mindset are terms that were formalized by Carol Dweck, a psychologist and researcher from Stanford University. Her book, Mindset, is certainly worth a read for coaches, parents, and players of all ages.

Having a Fixed Mindset is the belief that your skills and talent are completely fixed, set in stone, and limit your potential for growth. (Think of the player “born” with talent, but who never put the work in to make it to the next level).

Having a Growth Mindset is the belief that your skills and talent are ever-changing, having the room to grow and develop through practice and perseverance. (Think of the underdog player or the undrafted NHL star).


Assessing Your Mindset

When you show up to the rink, what mindset do you have? Let’s dig deeper:

  • Are you there to get better every day?
  • Do you feel you control your own destiny?
  • Do you have micro-goals to accomplish every day, every practice, and every week?
  • Are you measuring them to show yourself progress?

If so, you are working with a Growth Mindset and that’s something to be proud of. But also know growth is a constant journey – and your goal should be to improve and grow every day.

  • Are you a player that thinks they are held back because of their coach? Maybe your parents?
  • Do you think you haven’t gotten your big break?
  • Do you feel you’re stuck on a line you don’t want to be on?
  • Maybe a team you think you’re too good for?
  • Is the season just not going your way?

If so, chances are you are stuck in a Fixed Mindset. But don’t worry, mindset is something that can be changed – it takes some hard work and an open mind ready to learn and grow.

No one knows what your potential is except for you

– Pavel Barber

Praise Your Process – Not the End Result

When setting your goals, if the end result is success, that’s great. Enjoy it for a moment, but then set the next goal and new challenge.

If the end result is failure – take it as an opportunity to learn, grow, and rethink your process and give it another shot. Believe in the power of “Yet” – where you haven’t necessarily failed but you haven’t met your goal just “Yet.”

Here’s an example – big game against your rival, it’s tied with a few seconds left, you get the puck in the slot on your backhand and unleash a horrible muffin and lose your shot to win the game.

A Fixed Mindset might say “I just don’t have a backhand” or “If I would have had it on my forehand…” and accept the failure as a limit of their potential.

The Growth Mindset would say “I need to work on my backhand” and put together a plan. Over the next month, you’ll focus on improving your backhand with a routine like firing 50 backhand shots a day, sending and receiving backhand passes, and working on your non-dominant hand-eye and strength.

How to Take a Backhand Shot – Tips and Drills for a Dangerous Backhand

Next time you have that backhand shot in the slot, maybe you score, maybe you don’t – but if you trust your process and know that your backhand improved, know that you are setting yourself up for a better chance to score.

You also strengthened your ability to set a goal, make a plan, focused on discipline and resiliency, and are giving yourself confidence in your game.

Focus on Learning, Growing, and becoming a student of the game. Realize that you control your potential and work hard every day to reach your goals.

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Steve Marchi helps organizations revamp People and Culture initiatives. He’s a lifelong hockey player and coach always chasing a learning journey. Connect with him on LinkedIn.

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